Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Secret to Being a Productive and Focused Writer


For years I have set myself a goal of writing 2,000 words per day. Sometimes it felt like a prison sentence. I’d keep eyeing my word count, willing it to get larger.

Sometimes I’d be stuck in my office for eight to ten hours, and when I was finished, I’d feel hollowed out and weak, like someone who has given away too many pints of blood. Other times I’d write poor quality filler just to get the job done.

Much too often I’d become distracted; responding to the ding of my email like Pavlov’s dog, surfing the internet whenever I got stuck, hearing the damning words of Jonathan Franzen resound in my mind:

“It’s doubtful that anyone with an Internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.”

Luckily, all of the above ceased to be a problem when I found the Pomodoro Technique. An Italian named Francesco Cirillo invented the technique, and it can be used with any task but it works particularly well with writing.

It’s deceptively simple, which makes it all the more beautiful.

Set a kitchen timer to go off in 25 minutes and begin your work. Do not allow any interruptions. This 25-minute period is called a Pomodoro.

When the time is up, do something simple for five minutes. I often do short household chores and I like to get up from my desk to stretch my legs. Just make sure you don’t do anything too complex and don’t think about your work.

Repeat three more times. When you have completed four Pomodoros, take a 15-30 minute break. Then repeat the entire sequence again for a total of eight Pomodoros. Of course you don’t have to do eight. Maybe you only have time for four.

Using this method had changed the way I work.

It’s quite unusual for me to ever write less than 2,000 words and now I do it in almost half the time.

The quality of writing is also better because when I’m doing a Pomodoro I never give into distraction.

People who use the method claim that they have greater clarity of thought, higher consciousness and sharper focus.

I’ve definitely found this to be true. I also think it tricks the brain into focusing. After all who can’t concentrate on their writing for a mere 25-minutes?

If you want to learn move about the method, visit

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